LONDON — Residents of a London apartment block have been told that surface-to-air missiles were likely to be installed on the building to help combat airborne terror threats to the Olympic Games.
“A high-velocity missile system may be situated on the roof” and 10 soldiers stationed in the building for two months for the Games, which start on July 27, according to a leaflet distributed to residents.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed on Saturday it was scouting locations as Britain prepares to mount its biggest peacetime security operation for the Olympics.
“Ground-based air defence systems could be deployed as part of a multi-layered air security plan for the Olympics, including fast jets and helicopters,” a spokesman for the ministry said in a statement.
“Based on military advice, we have identified a number of sites and... are talking to local authorities and relevant landowners to help minimise the impact of any temporary deployments.”
The ministry has made no final decision on deployment of missiles, but is evaluating sites alongside police, the statement added.
Brian Whelan, a journalist and resident of the apartment block in Bow, east London, said: “They’re going to do a dummy run and if it goes well, there will be high-velocity missiles stationed on my building, along with soldiers.
“It seems like it’s completely written in stone — there’s been no consultation. They announced it in a way that makes it seem like some kind of prize that I’ve won, to be living on an army base, which is insulting.”
The building was chosen because of its “excellent view of the surrounding area and the entire sky above the Olympic Park”, the leaflet said.
It assured residents that the missiles would only be used in the event of
“specific orders from the highest levels of government in response to a confirmed and extreme security threat”.
“Having a 24/7 armed forces and police presence will improve your local security and will not make you a target for terrorists,” it said.
A security force of more than 40,000, backed by a huge intelligence operation, will guard venues, athletes and the millions of visitors expected to throng the British capital for the Games.
“Lone wolf” terrorist attacks are a major concern for security forces but a range of other threats are also being considered.
In 2005, a day after London was named host city, four home-grown suicide bombers attacked three underground trains and a bus, killing 52 people. — AFP